Play with junk for a day

Pop-Up Adventure Playground in Baghdad Street tomorrow will have all kinds of salvaged objects for children to play with

Chapter Zero Singapore co-founders Shumei Winstanley (left) and Kasia Poleszak- Langner with materials that will be found at the playground tomorrow.
Chapter Zero Singapore co-founders Shumei Winstanley (left) and Kasia Poleszak- Langner with materials that will be found at the playground tomorrow.ST PHOTO: MARCUS TAN

Take your children tomorrow to a playground that looks like a junkyard in Baghdad Street - trust the organisers, they say they know what they are doing.

Parenting organisation and social enterprise Chapter Zero Singapore will set up the temporary playground on the street in Kampong Glam, which is closed to traffic every weekend, using all kinds of objects and materials. There will be tyres, motorcycle wheels, fan belts and bubble wrap collected from industrial estates in Kaki Bukit and Yishun; and from their own homes, unwanted plastic and paper bags, cardboard boxes, bedsheets and clothing, used cardboard rolls from kitchen paper towels, old telephones and keyboards.

Mrs Shumei Winstanley, one of the co-founders of Chapter Zero, says: "Unlike most conventional toys, such materials encourage open-ended play and are free."

As an example, the 28-year-old lawyer says a bedsheet can be whatever a child wants it to be - a magic carpet, a superhero's cape or to cover a fort. There are endless possibilities with the "loose parts" in such a playground.

Adults are advised not to instruct or direct the play, although they are welcome to join in.

Mrs Winstanley, who has a two-year-old daughter, says: "Children use their imagination and creativity to figure out how to solve problems and overcome obstacles without any adult view of failure or what is the right or wrong way to play."

Chapter Zero, formed earlier this year to advocate play in children, was inspired by Pop-Up Adventure Play - an organisation from Britain and the United States that supports children's play - to organise tomorrow's inaugural event, which is open to the public at no cost.

It intends to hold more of such pop-ups every one to two months to encourage open-ended, childdirected play.

The pop-up playground is supported by PlaystreetsSG, an initiative under the Singapore Wellness Association which converts streets into playgrounds. It will have two areas to cater to the needs of children of different age groups. Each space is about half the size of a basketball court.

The dry area will have materials such as cardboard, fabric and wood for the children to build on or piece together, while the wet area will have buckets of ice and water as well as cups, bottles and funnels for the children to play with.

At the playground, there will be potentially risky items such as ropes, pipes, heavy wooden pallets and planks. Facilitators from Chapter Zero and volunteers will be there to help the children assess the risks.

Ms Suzanna Law, a playworker with Pop-Up Adventure Play who visited Singapore last month to give a talk on risks in play, says it is important that children learn to negotiate risk in play throughout childhood.

She tells The Straits Times in an e-mail: "Otherwise, we are in danger of nurturing a generation of adults who are fearful of everything."

She adds that adults often think that their children will come to harm by doing risky things, but risks are different from hazards.

As she explains: "Hazards are non-negotiable risks that can be removed or avoided. For instance, a sharp object, or crossing at a red light.

"Risks refer to the likelihood of an adverse outcome and may not always be removed or avoided. We need to take a risk to cross a road, make a meal or fall in love."

She says that children discover through play which risks are higher than others and which risks can be overcome.

Adventure playgrounds in the US and Europe sometimes feature riskier things such as screwdrivers, hand drills and chainsaws. But these will not be found at the event here tomorrow.

Mrs Winstanley explains: "As Suzanna says, we can't go from zero to chainsaw. Risk has to be introduced incrementally."

•Catch Pop-Up Adventure Playground in Baghdad Street from 4 to 7pm tomorrow. Admission is free.

The story has been edited for clarity.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 05, 2016, with the headline 'Play with junk for a day'. Subscribe